NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Eight adults and one child were forced from their home Thursday after a fire broke out in New Bedford.
Firefighters responded to a home on Welcome Street around 4 p.m. and found heavy flames and smoke coming from the third floor.
The roof and front porches collapsed, but fortunately, no firefighters were hurt.
Two residents were taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.
Investigators determined the fire was accidental in nature and may have been caused by an illicit recreational marijuana growth operation — an issue they’ve seen before.
“It’s the chemicals they use, whether it’s butane, or ethanol, oils that they use, extract, carbon dioxide to extract the oils from the leaves,” District Fire Chief James Fortin said.
These growth operations often happen in old buildings with plenty of dry wood and old wiring, according to Fortin.
“When you start using extra extension chords, heat lamps, other materials, equipment in order to extract this material, it’s an overload on the system which can create a fire hazard and it gets to the point where a fire can happen,” Fortin added.
Neighbors were stunned to hear the cause may be tied to drugs.
“If it was [true], that wasn’t too smart,” Alvin Lipsett, a next-door neighbor, said. “Why they grow it is beyond me when you can just drive to the dispensary and buy it.”
According to the property manager, Kenneth Homen, they were in the process of redoing the property. Now, crews are barred from even going inside.
“There was so much water that got put in this house that all the ceilings fell in,” Homen said. “The city wants it to get it boarded up and secured and basically that’s all we’re doing right at this moment.”
The tenant was asleep at the time of the fire and was awoken by his dog, named Major, according to a Facebook post from the department. Major, along with 11 other pets, escaped the home and have since been accounted for.
New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger said the home had working smoke alarms. He stressed the importance of changing out the batteries every six months and making sure they’re working properly.
The American Red Cross is now helping nine residents.